23 March, 2008

Piers Gaveston's Third Exile

Piers Gaveston returned to England from his second exile on or about 27 June 1309, and on 5 August, was re-granted his earldom of Cornwall at parliament. This was the period when he gave the earls insulting nicknames and acted even more arrogantly than ever, according to some of the chronicles. Tension ran high in England in late 1309 and early 1310. On 18 October, the earls of Warwick, Lancaster, Lincoln, Arundel and Oxford refused to attend the parliament which Edward had summoned for early the following year, giving Piers' presence as their reason (according to the chronicler Walter Guisborough). In the end, only the earl of Surrey agreed to attend, even the royalist earls of Gloucester, Pembroke and Richmond refusing. Eight days later, Edward tried again, summoning a parliament to be held at York on 8 February. This meeting, too, some of the earls refused to attend, because "as long as their chief enemy [Gaveston], who had set the baronage and the realm in an uproar, was lurking in the king’s chamber, their approach would be unsafe." (Vita Edwardi Secundi).

Eventually the location was changed to Westminster. The earls of Lancaster, Hereford, Warwick and Pembroke agreed to attend "if it was absolutely necessary to present themselves before the king" but they would come armed. However, they hastened to add that Edward should not feel "offended or injured" and they were only choosing the "safer way". (Vita) Edward was forced to send Piers away before they would agree to come before him (Annales Londonienses).

At this parliament, a petition was presented, a harsh indictment of Edward's rule containing a long list of grievances. I won't go into it here - it deserves a post to itself - but the upshot was that Edward was forced, on 16 March 1310, to agree to the formation of the Lords Ordainer, a group of twenty-one men, eight earls, seven bishops and six barons. (The Annales Londonienses is the most detailed contemporary source describing the formation of this group). Their aim was to reform Edward's household and address the grievances they had presented to him.

In late August 1310, Edward departed for Scotland, his clear aim to avoid the Ordainers rather than out of any desire to fight in Scotland, and spent almost a year there, with Piers and the earls of Gloucester and Surrey, his nephew and nephew by marriage. Surrey was one of only three earls not an Ordainer - the others were Oxford, a nonentity, and Cornwall, Piers Gaveston himself.

By the summer of 1311, the Ordainers were ready with their reforms - the Ordinances, forty-one of them - and Edward reluctantly, and very slowly, came south to meet them. The Vita claims he went on pilgrimage to Canterbury to put off the evil moment, though looking at his itinerary, it's hard to see when. He left Piers in the north, in the stronghold of Bamburgh, for his own safety.

Parliament met on 16 August. To his horror, Edward saw that the Ordinances placed severe limitations on his power, and he protested that "some things were disadvantageous to him, some fabricated out of spite, and he argued and pleaded that he was not bound to give his consent to these". (This and all following quotes are taken from the Vita). But the one that horrified him most was the twentieth:

"Piers Gaveston has led the king astray, counselled him badly and persuaded him deceitfully and in many ways to do evil…Piers Gaveston, as a public enemy of the king and of the kingdom, shall be utterly cast out and exiled, not only from England, but from Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Gascony, and from every land as well beyond the sea as on this side of the sea subject to the lordship of the king of England, for ever and without return."

The full text is much, much longer than that. ;) It accuses Piers, among many other things, of stealing Edward’s treasure and sending it abroad, dominating the king and turning away his heart from his liege men, maintaining robbers and murderers, and persuading Edward to make war without his barons’ consent, "and all the aforesaid he does cunningly, falsely and treacherously to the great disgrace and loss of the realm, the disherison of the crown, and the manifold destruction of the people".

The Ordainers stated rather lamely, regarding Gaveston’s previous exile in 1308, "he did not return by common consent, but only by the consent of some", and that his return had depended on his good behaviour, and "now it is found of a certainty that he has behaved badly." (I love that deadpan statement.)

I bet you can guess what Edward did next, can't you? Yup - he agreed to accept all the Ordinances, despite the severe limitations they placed on his power, if the lords would only revoke the twentieth, and said:

"Whatever has been ordained or decided upon, however much they may redound to my private disadvantage, shall be established at your request and remain in force for ever. But you shall stop persecuting my brother Piers, and allow him to have the earldom of Cornwall. "

But to no avail. Even the royalist earls were determined to see the back of Piers. Furious, powerless, Edward gave vent to his emotions, alternating between screaming insults and threats at the Ordainers and trying cajole them with flattery and promises of favours. Again, to no avail. Piers Gaveston was to leave the country by 1 November 1311, from Dover and nowhere else. If he did not, he would "thereafter be treated as an enemy of the kingdom, the king, and the people."

Edward was even threatened that if he did not consent to Piers' banishment:

"...the kingdom would be in turmoil and peace driven out of the land…considering also how ruthless and perilous would be the struggle between the king and his barons, that the desolation of the whole land would ensue, that amid the varying fortunes of war the capture of the king could hardly be avoided…he [Edward] might through imprudence be deprived of his throne and his kingdom."

Faced with this potent threat, Edward finally (on 27 September, six weeks after Parliament opened) agreed to all the Ordinances. Piers was to leave the country for the third time, and this time, it was to be permanent. On 9 October, Edward sent letters to his sister and brother-in-law the duke and duchess of Brabant asking them to receive Piers (Close Rolls/Foedera). He also begged his father-in-law Philippe IV of France for a private interview, presumably to ask him to help Piers (Foedera). The meeting in fact never took place.

On 22 October, Piers appointed attorneys for five years, and asked for letters of protection for the same length of time (Patent Rolls). Evidently, he expected his exile to be a very long one. It's interesting to see that on 29 October, Queen Isabella wrote to her controller of Ponthieu (the county in northern France, Edward II's inheritance from his mother, which he granted to Isabella in 1308) regarding "the affairs of the earl of Cornwall" (Household Book of Queen Isabella). Evidently, she was prepared to help him in exile, at least financially. Whether this was out of sympathy, or relief that he was gone, is not clear, but it's almost certainly not a coincidence, in my opinion, that Edward granted Isabella many lands and properties in Lincolnshire and Kent at this time, including the palace of Eltham (Patent Rolls).

Piers sailed from London, not Dover, on 3 November, not the 1st. His wife Margaret did not accompany him, for the simple reason that she was about six or seven months pregnant. The earldom of Cornwall was stripped from Piers, though Margaret was allowed to keep Wallingford Castle and was granted an income for her sustenance.

Piers probably went to Flanders. The Vita says he went there; the Pauline annalist specifically says Bruges; Trokelowe says he first went to France, but was forced to flee and ended up in Flanders. However, there were rumours by late November that he had returned to England, and on 30 November, two men were sent to the west country to search for him (Patent Rolls/Foedera).

Several chronicles (Vita, Annales Londonienses, Trokelowe, Bridlington) all claim that Piers returned to England before or around Christmas. However, this seems unlikely to be true. Wherever Piers was, he was not with Edward, as his (Piers') biographer J. S. Hamilton has pointed out that Edward gave Piers' messenger a pound on 23 December for carrying messages between the two men.

What is certain is that Piers was back in England by 13 January 1312. Why he might have returned, and what happened subsequently, is the subject of the next post!


Lady D. said...

Oooh, very cloak and dagger that last bit! You really couldn't make it up, could you?

I'm wondering how far those charges against Piers relate to those later on against Hugh. It seems that certain set pieces were dug up and used whenever the magnates wanted rid of a favourite. In which case some of the accusations might be a bit... well, dodgy.

Great post though Alianore! Woke me up from my Easter stupor ;-)

Gabriele C. said...

Wow, Ed surely had even more problems with his barons than Heinrich IV.

Btw, my father agreed to fund a research trip to Wales, so now I'll have to figure out what I want so see and how to get there. :)

Alianore said...

Gabriele: yay, a trip to Wales! Looking forward to hearing about that.

Thanks, Lady D! The grievances presented to Ed II in 1309 are basically a repetition of ones presented to his father in 1300 - with the added one that Ed II had 'lost' Scotland, which his father had bequeathed to him whole. Yeah, riiiight....*rolls eyes*. 'Losing' Scotland was a frequent complaint against Ed, and the 'evil counsellors' one came up really often. The word 'recycling' springs to mind...

Carla said...

The Ordinances and the Ordainers sound faintly reminiscent of the Provisions forced on Henry III by Simon de Montfort and the barons. What do you think - is that a parallel? If I remember rightly, one of the grievances against Henry was favouritism towards his Lusignan half-siblings. Maybe there was a gene for complete absence of political sense.....

Alianore said...

Carla: yes, the Ordinances have a great deal in common with the 1258 Provisions, and the formation of the Lords Ordainer was clearly based on the Council of Fifteen of 1258. Contemporary commentators were well aware of the similarities, and pointed out that the earl of Lancaster was, politically, the heir of Simon de Montfort (and even held his earldom of Leicester).

In many ways, Ed II was extremely similar to his grandfather Henry III, and inherited the 'lack of any kind of political sense' gene. :-)

Rowan Plantagenet said...

This makes me a bit sick.
I bet Piers even cunningly poisoned the wells of the kingdom...
This must have been horrible for both him and Edward.

Anonymous said...

I think people don't realize is that the barons considered themselves nearly autonomous, and certainly equal to, the king. Without them, there would be no kingdom. I think Edward could have done anything he wanted to privately, but he must have been completely politically naive to think Piers could publicly insult them and get away with it. It's almost like a suicide wish. I have nothing against him personally, but when you are a military leader you don't insult your top generals.Was this during the time the Earl of Surrey was involved in his lifelong quest for a divorce? That would explain his stand on the issue.